DR. ARUN KASHYAP // On The Occasion of the UNETT Training Workshop

Jul 18, 2013

• Mr. Juan Pablo O’Farrill and Keith Ford, OCHA
• Members of UNETT
• Representatives from ODPEM,
• Representatives from St. John’s Ambulance
•  Representatives from the Ministry of Local Government, and the Ministry of Labour and Social Security
• Other Distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, good morning.

It is a pleasure for me to welcome you to the United Nations Emergency Technical Team (UNETT) Training Workshop, where over the next two days you will be trained in emergency management procedures, specifically in the areas of Information Management, Emergency Coordination, Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) and Flash Appeal.

The UNETT is made up of emergency specialists from each of Jamaica’s United Nations Systems agencies. The Head of each Agency designates a focal point to be integrated into the team. This team is the UN System’s technical and operational tool for emergency preparedness and it provides a coordinated response at the time of a disaster or national emergency. The team reports directly to the UN Country Team/UN Disaster Management Team. As part of its commitment to effective emergency coordination, the UNETT includes other key partners, such as the Jamaica Red Cross and the ODPEM in its emergency preparedness and response activities.

The purpose of this workshop is to train the UN Emergency Technical Team in emergency communication management and preparation, as well as to expose our Jamaican counterparts, such as ODPEM, Red Cross, Ministry of Local Government, Ministry of Labour and Social Security, the St. John Ambulance, the Adventist Group, and the USAID Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance to the UN Response System.

The goal is to identify a common coordination mechanism that can be used by all in the event of a disaster, in order to share information, collaborate on data gathering and provide needs assessment immediately after a disaster. This workshop serves to strengthen the working relationship between the UN Cluster System and the ODPEM Sub-committees, by reinforcing their information sharing mechanisms.

Specifically, it is expected that this Training Workshop will strengthen the UNETT disaster response system in Jamaica; establish a system for managing the information flow during an emergency; facilitate the design of an integrated emergency coordination system for the country’s humanitarian partners; facilitate the review and updating of the UNETT action plan to include the role of clusters and cluster leads, and also provide recommendations for inclusion in the updating of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) coordination plan.

The United Nations System (UNS) plays a unique and central role in providing leadership and coordinating the efforts of the international community to support countries affected by disasters, and to ensure prompt and coordinated distribution of such assistance. Jamaica is highly vulnerable to natural and technological disasters, and therefore the need for effective inter-agency planning within the UNCT is essential to the mandate of the United Nations General Resolution 46/182.

When disaster strikes, empowered and accountable leadership is a prerequisite to an effective humanitarian response. Both emergency humanitarian response and early recovery require close collaboration with sector partners within and outside the country and involves application of prevention and mitigation measures. Strengthening disaster response in Jamaica is important. An efficient response system will help to minimize the human suffering, environmental and economic harm, and the setback to progress caused by disasters. Developing such a system is therefore an investment worth making.

It should be noted that investing in prevention mechanisms not only increases the resilience of Jamaica to future disasters, but also protects the country’s economic growth and other development achievements from being lost in a single catastrophic event. There has been a significant shift in attitude in addressing the challenges of disasters. For a long time, disasters were seen as one-off events that were addressed only through humanitarian response and relief efforts. There is growing evidence of the intensity and frequency of climate related extreme events. It is therefore critical that disasters be seen through the lens of reducing risk of and building resilience to disasters, rather than just a response to a one-off disaster event.

Often missing in the analysis is the causal link between disaster risk and development, or more precisely the impact of slow development that often creates increased vulnerability that results in development losses and increased indebtedness for many Least Developed Countries and Small Island Developing States. This causality was one of the key issues raised at the SIDS national consultations and the subsequent regional meeting on the SIDS, which took place in Jamaica from 2 to 4 July. The level and quality of development to a large extent determines the way in which hazards impact on people and economies. Thus, it is not by coincidence that a clearer move was made towards strengthening preparedness, and ensuring a more effective and efficient response that took into account the development component.

For example, building on the Yokohama strategy and in recognition of the need to address the multidimensional aspects of disaster risk from a development perspective, the Hyogo Framework for Action 2005-2015: Building the Resilience of Nations and Communities to Disasters was adopted at the World Conference on Disaster Reduction in Kobe, Hyogo, Japan in 2005. The Framework serves as the guiding instrument for international cooperation, disaster risk reduction and resilience building. The multi-stakeholder and multi-sector nature of the Hyogo Framework for Action provides guidance on how disaster risk reduction contributes to sustainable development. There is an opportunity for the post-2015 development agenda to draw from the Hyogo Framework for Action and help to address some of the challenges, for example around implementation as identified in the 2011 Mid-Term Review. One of the solutions outlined was the need for clearly defined, agreed and monitored goals and targets around disaster risk reduction and resilience.

Jamaica, like other island states, is significantly vulnerable to the negative effects of increasing global warming and climate change. As such, there is a need to make Jamaica resilient in the face of disasters resulting from climate change and weather related hazards, given that they will remain a pervasive risk. Over the years, hurricanes, tropical storms, in addition to flood rains and earthquakes, have dealt devastating blows to Jamaica. Just last year, Hurricane Sandy, a category one hurricane, made a landfall in late October, resulting in damage being in excess of US$55 million dollars.

It was just in March of this year that Dr. Eric Calais, an international seismic expert, who visited Jamaica courtesy of UNDP, stated emphatically that “Jamaica must prepare for large earthquakes”. His seismic mission to Jamaica was to explore Jamaica’s capacity to deal with a large earthquake, and provide guidance for effecting earthquake risk reduction.

Today, we have the opportunity to implement disaster risk reduction programmes in Jamaica, and also an opportunity to design an integrated emergency coordination system for the country’s humanitarian partners. So, with these in place, in the event of a disaster, we will make the country even more resilient by increasing the likelihood that more people’s lives will be saved, less people will be injured, less of the country’s buildings and other infrastructure will be damaged, and of course increase the likelihood that there will be an overall lower comparative dollar value in the material damage suffered. 

The United Nations System in Jamaica stands ready to help the Government and people of Jamaica in whatever way we are needed. This UNETT Training Workshop supports the UN’s overarching goal of achieving the targets of the Millennium Development Goals and ensuring that there is sustainable development beyond 2015. The assistance being given to Jamaica will help to further put the country on a path to realizing the Vision 2030 Jamaica, and thus truly make Jamaica ‘the place of choice to live, work, raise families and do business’.

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